German Grammar Explained /

Infinitive sentences

Perhaps you already noticed that when we refer to a verb in English, we add 'to' in front of it, while in German we don't.
to play - spielen
Well... no, I hadn't noticed until now!
There is a construction where you will need the German equivalent of 'to'. ⇒ zu
Ich freue mich, dich zu sehen.
I'm happy to see you.
Es ist verboten, hier zu rauchen.
It is forbidden to smoke here.
Hast du am Samstag Zeit, ins Kino zu gehen?
Do you have time to go to the cinema on Saturday?
Watch out: There are some exceptions where German and English are different. Notice that German likes things neat and tidy and therefore...
  • it (usually) places a comma between the two clauses.
  • it always puts the zu + infinitive at the end of the subordinate clause
  • it doesn't use zu with möchten, mögen, or wollen (English: I want to do something. German: Ich möchte etwas zu machen.)
Guess what happens with Trennbare Verben?
We trennen them!
Jawohl! We separate them to fit the zu in the middle!
Hast du Lust, meine Freunde kennenzulernen?
Do you want to get to know my friends?
In Grammar terms...
zu + verb clauses like this are called 'Infinitive clauses'. Remember, an 'infinitive' is a verb in its original form, no conjugation.
Both in English and German, infinitive constructions are not used in combination with modal verbs (English: I can to play. German: Ich kann zu spielen.)
But!!! The verb 'to want' is not considered a modal verb in English, whereas in German möchten/mögen/wollen are modal verbs (English: I want to go home. German: Ich möchte nach Hause zu gehen.).
So remember never to use zu with them!
Lust haben...
It's not what you might be thinking! Did you know that in Old English 'lust' meant 'delight' or 'longing'? German has kept this original meaning and you can use it without feeling awkward... Lust haben means 'to feel like doing something', or simply 'to want'.